Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Northwoods Almanac for July 7, 2017

A Northwoods Almanac for July 7 – 20, 2017   

Sightings
White Admiral Butterflies: Denise Fauntleroy in Watersmeet sent me photos of a flock of 50 or so white admiral butterflies that she observed near her front door on 7/1. Larry Weber in his book Butterflies of the North Woods writes that “white admirals take in nutrients from mammal scat, bird guano, aphid honey, puddles, wet sand, or pavement.” (How does one take in nutrients from pavement)? White admirals are also known to sip from sap flows, rotting fruit, carrion, and occasionally nectar from small white flowers including spiraeas and viburnums.

white admirals photo by Denise Fauntleroy

Why the flock of 50 at Denise’s door? While white admirals are abundant, I can’t find anything in my research regarding large congregations like this. The caterpillar larvae feed predominantly on cherry, willow, and birch trees, but also alder, juneberry, hawthorn, basswood, and elm. Some constellation of conditions must have come together to attract so many.
Dragon’s-mouth Orchids: On 6/20, Mary and I paddled on the Little Tamarack Flowage as part of trip offered through the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. We were specifically interested in finding dragon’s-mouth orchids (Arethusa bulbosa), and we were pleased to find individuals of these beautiful rose-purple flowers scattered widely throughout the site. Dragon’s-mouth typically grows on a bed of sphagnum moss around bog lakes. The tongue of the orchid has fleshy yellow bristles, which I suppose to some creative soul was what they imagined a dragon’s tongue to look like. The genus name Arethusa comes from the river nymph of classical Greek mythology.

Dragon's-mouth orchid photo by Rod Sharka

Roadside Flowers: Just recently flowering in open areas are purple vetch, common St. Johnswort, fireweed, birdsfoot trefoil, common milkweed, wild roses, spreading dogbane, yarrow, tall buttercup, oxeye daisy, heal-all, and an array of others.
Young-of-the-year Hummers: Dennis McCarthy in the Land O’Lakes area sent me photos of young-of-the-year ruby-throated hummingbirds at his nectar feeders. Hummers typically raise two young in their tiny nests, who fledge in two to three weeks. The female does all of the incubation and rearing of the young, feeding them regurgitated nectar and insects. The male, on the other hand, spends his time frenetically defending his quarter-acre feeding territory from other hummers, and even from the female, or females, he has mated with.
Hummers feed on more than 30 nectar-producing flower species, at least 19 of which are adapted to be pollinated as the bird forages. Pollen is deposited on the base of the bill and then carried to another flower – columbine and bee balm are two examples.
Turtle Eggs: Deb and Randy Augustinak in Land O’Lakes sent me an all too familiar photo on 6/20 of turtle eggs dug up and eaten. Their comment: “Like previous years, the snapping turtles in the Ontonagon River laid their eggs along the roadside, only to have them quickly found and devoured by the coyotes. The coyote scat and hair usually confirms who walked away with an easy meal. The shells were still soft and pliable when we found them this morning, with some still containing yoke. It's amazing that snappers have managed to survived for so long, considering the predators that feast upon their eggs.”

photo by Deb Augustinak


Japanese Knotweed
The Town of Presque Isle Terrestrial Invasive Species Committee has been working to eradicate garlic mustard for 10 years, and this year has hired a professional eradicator to control Japanese knotweed on public and private property in and around the town.
I first encountered Japanese knotweed while at a conference in rural Vermont nearly a decade ago. The roadsides were clothed in a monotype of dense 10-foot-tall plants that looked like bamboo. I didn’t know what the plant was, but it clearly was extraordinarily invasive. I quickly found out it was Japanese knotweed, and I’ve been worried ever since that it would appear someday in our area. Well, it’s here. Its roots go as deep as 9 feet and can penetrate asphalt and concrete, readily spreading and dominating wetlands, lakeshores, and roadside ditches within 10 years. Seriously, you literally have to use a machete to hack your way through them. If you see this plant, don’t hesitate for a second to kill it with an herbicide. And if you planted it innocently in your yard, you owe it to everyone in the North to eliminate it immediately.

example of how invasive Japanese knotweed can become

Mosquito Squad/Authority – Safe?
            I’ve received several inquiries from folks who have seen the “Mosquito Authority” or “Mosquito Squad” signs now proliferating around our area, and who are wondering about the safety of spraying for mosquitoes. Here’s what I’ve found. The pesticides are pyrethroids, typically bifenthrin, permethrin, or cyfluthrin. These are broad spectrum insecticides used to kill a variety of insects. They work by quickly paralyzing the nervous systems of insects, killing adults, eggs, and larvae.


            You may have seen clothing that is advertised to repel mosquitoes. The only insect repellent currently used for factory treatment of clothing is permethrin.
The EPA has this to say about permethrin: “Permethrin was first registered and tolerances established in the United States in 1979 for use on cotton . . . Permethrin is registered for use on/in numerous food/feed crops, livestock and livestock housing, modes of transportation, structures, buildings (including food handling establishments), Public Health Mosquito abatement programs, and numerous residential use sites including use in outdoor and indoor spaces, pets, and clothing (impregnated and ready to use formulations).”
Pyrethroids are considered non-toxic to birds and mammals, but the EPA adds, “Permethrin is highly toxic to both freshwater and estuarine aquatic organisms. Most agricultural, public health, and down-the-drain scenarios modeled resulted in exceedances in the acute risk quotient (RQ) for freshwater and estuarine fish, invertebrates, and sediment organisms. The agricultural and public health scenarios also showed the potential for chronic risks to estuarine and/or freshwater organisms . . . [Also] Permethrin toxicity data show that the compound is highly toxic to honeybees, as well as other beneficial insects.”
There’s a great deal of scientific information on-line if one does a simple Google search, and I recommend taking the time to read all you can. I fully understand the desire to have a mosquito-free life, but as with any use of a broad spectrum insecticide, there are risks involved, and losses will accrue to unintended organisms. This is a value judgement that must be made by any individual choosing to use these products.

Solar Project at the Mercer Library
Kudos to the Mercer Town Board in approving the installation of a 6kW solar energy system for the Mercer Library. The town will save an estimated $1000 per year in energy costs over the 25-year warrantied life of the system components. The system will be paid for entirely by the Friends of the Mercer Library. The Friends have also committed to paying for any maintenance and upkeep costs for the system, expenses which are predicted to be insignificant. 
Solar energy projects at Lakeland Union High School, the Merrill library, the Wisconsin Rapids library, the Cable library, Bayfield Electric near Iron River, the Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland, and many other public locations in Wisconsin have proven that solar energy can be a viable supplemental source of energy for the Northwoods. 
The Mercer project will include a monitoring system that allows anyone with internet access to monitor its energy output. Some folks remain skeptical about the viability of solar in the Northwoods. This demonstration project will hopefully provide honest, on-the-ground answers regarding its applicability. Features of the proposed solar energy system include:
·      A 6.03 kilowatt solar system, which will produce approximately 7500 KW per year
·      18 Canadian Solar CS6U-340M 340 watt panels (all components are made in US, except the Canadian panels) from Let It Shine Energy Services, LLC, in Washburn
·      All electrical components, excavation, concrete, labor and utility company integration
·      Price $22,445, paid by the Friends of the Mercer Library through generous supporters.

Alexander Wilson in Nashville
Thirty-three species of birds nest on the ground in northern Wisconsin, about one-fifth of our total nesting species. The total includes 13 species of warblers, one of which is the Nashville warbler which commonly nests under blueberry bushes along the edges of lakes, bogs and swamps. Why is it called the “Nashville” warbler since it does not now, nor has it ever, bred in Nashville? Indeed, it nests in northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada and winters in Mexico! The name was given to it in 1811 from a specimen collected by Alexander Wilson on the banks of the Cumberland River, which flows through Nashville, while the bird was migrating.
While Wilson, considered “the Father of American Ornithology,” should have known better in misnaming the Nashville, he wins big points from me because he was also a weaver and a poet. Born in 1779 in Scotland and apprenticed as a weaver, he was inspired by Robert Burns to write poetry, and because of writing a severe satirical piece against a mill owner, he was arrested and imprisoned. His sentence included burning the work in public. After his release, he emigrated to America where he eventually turned to birds and illustrating them through painting. His 1808 nine-volume American Ornithology included 26 birds never before described.

from Audubon Field Guide
Alexander Wilson

Celestial Events
            The year’s warmest days on average occur between July 7 and 29 – the Minocqua area averages a high of 79° and a low of 55°.
            The full moon occurs on 7/8, which is also the year’s lowest and southernmost full moon.
            As of 7/10, we’re receiving 15 hours and 30 minutes of daylight, down from our solstice high of 15 hours and 45 minutes – our days are now growing shorter by 2 minutes/day.
            July 20 marks the day in 1969 that Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon.

Quote for the Week
            “Sometimes I come across a tree which seems like Buddha or Jesus: loving, compassionate, still, unambitious, enlightened, in eternal meditation, giving pleasure to a pilgrim, shade to a cow, berries to a bird, beauty to its surroundings, health to its neighbors, branches for the fire, leaves for the soil, asking nothing in return, in total harmony with the wind and the rain. How much can I learn from a tree? The tree is my church, the tree is my temple, the tree is my mantra, the tree is my poem and my prayer.” - Satish Kumar